Cuts to Norfolk’s mobile libraries agreed

The mobile library van on its visit to Winterton in Norfolk.Picture: James Bass

The mobile library van on its visit to Winterton in Norfolk.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Cuts to Norfolk's mobile libraries have been agreed, which will see two fewer vehicles and some stops no longer called at.

But Conservative councillors say that was the 'fairest way' to make savings.

And one councillor said the service provided up to now was 'more than you would expect.'

When it agreed its budget earlier this year, Norfolk County Council outlined how it wanted to reduce the budget for mobile libraries.

The council has eight mobile libraries, which visit 1,568 locations in the county. But from next year, it plans to cut more than 40pc from the budget to run them.

A review of the routes, based on seven criteria considered by members in July, identified that 725 stops would be removed if it went forward.

But a replacement proposal, which was agreed by County Hall's communities committee today, will instead see mobile libraries visiting each stop every four weeks and removing 92 stops, which the council says are not currently used.

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The Liberal Democrats presented a petition against the cuts ahead of the meeting.

Councillor Sarah Butikofer raised concerns that the cuts would contribute to social isolation.

But the council says pop up libraries in village halls, community centres and churches are planned to encourage people to mix with others.

And Conservative Brian Long said, while mobile libraries were important in rural areas, particularly those without permanent libraries, he believed there were currently too many stops.

He said: 'The mobile library service is important to those who access it.

'However, you don't get a brick built library on every street corner.

'The service we have provided so far has probably been more than you would expect.

'While I appreciate you need a service for those areas with no library provision, having multiple stops is providing a service far more than a static library.'

He said that could actually make social isolation worse.

He said: 'We need to get people to get to community activities, rather than just walking down the end of their drives.'

Labour's Chrissie Rumsby said the rollout of Universal Credit meant people needed access to libraries - to fill in forms online - more than ever.

Committee chairman Margaret Dewsbury said of the revised proposal, which sees fewer stops scrapped: 'That seems to be the fairest way of dealing with that across the county.'

The proposals will save £200,000 at a time when the council is looking for ways to plug a £45.3m spending gap.

New savings which have been proposed by the communities committee include reducing the opening hours of the search room at Norfolk Record Office to save £75,000 and saving £120,000 through library service 'back office efficiencies.'

Those proposals will feed into the council's budget decision-making next year.

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